Choosing Indoor House Plants

The choice of plants is very wide, but for the beginner it is wiser to start with a few hardy plants; to gradually become used to their requirements, the diseases which may attack them, the amount of water they need at various times of the year and the feeding they may require. It is useless to choose plants for appearance only, for choice must primarily depend on the growing conditions required. Later, choice widens with experience and eventually one is able to deal with any plant, no matter how delicate. Hardy plants have a certain tolerance for fluctuating temperatures and can overlook neglect in matters such as watering and feeding for short periods.



An ability to thrive in shady conditions is essential for some plants, because the light that they get indoors approximates to their natural habitat, the forests of Malaysia or tropical South America, from which the vast majority of house plants originate. It is not usually possible to give ideal growing conditions for plants in a room primarily adjusted to the needs of personal living. Even well-lighted rooms are shady in comparison with open conditions in gardens and, as light enters a room mainly through its windows, its intensity and duration depends on their aspect. Temperatures are mainly a winter problem. The level at night is crucial; the minimum temperature that should be consistently maintained should be 50 degrees F, although a number of plants can strive in a temperature of 5 degrees less. This is fairly easy to maintain and, if there is central heating, it may often be exceeded.

A dry atmosphere causes moisture loss from leaves, roots, and soil which must be offset by creating more humidity around the plants. One of the easiest ways to increase humidity is to put the plant pot into another, larger, container and to fill the extra space between outside container and inner pot with something absorbent, such as peat, which can be kept permanently moist. Some plants do, however, prefer a dry atmosphere. Among them are Sansevieria, Pittosporum, Sedum, Grevillea and Aspidistra. Plants that appreciate a dry atmosphere usually like as much light as possible. All house plants should be removed before a room is painted, although most are unaffected by tobacco smoke.

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